I used to think I was savvy at accruing frequent flyer miles. Over the past few years I’ve managed to fly for free to Costa Rica, Mexico, Aruba and L.A. However, after doing some research on mileage offers — it became clear I’ve only scratched the surface of my earning potential. There are dozens of helpful websites and blogs — created passionate frequent flyers — that make the loyalty reward system more transparent.

So if you’ve racked up a bunch of frequent flyer miles after finding awesome airfare deals on Fly.com, here are some tips and tricks on how to get those miles organized and earning more, as well as some advice on how to spend them wisely.

Organize Your Frequent Flyer Miles and Points

Let’s say you’ve earned 100,000 frequent flyer miles, but they are spread over four accounts. It’s a hassle to keep track of the balances and various account numbers and passwords, plus the miles will likely expire if they are left unused. This is not uncommon — supposedly trillions (yes, trillions) of frequent flyer miles go unused every year.

Put an end to the waste and get your accounts organized in just five minutes with handy websites like AwardWallet, which is designed specifically for travelers to manage loyalty programs. It’s a free service that supports 536 loyalty programs (air, hotel, car rental, credit card and dining) and will track your balances in one simple interface.

Tips to Earn More Frequent Flyer Miles and Points

For an in-depth overview of the top mileage/points programs, reward credit cards and strategies to earn miles this beginner’s guide from ThePointsGuy.com is incredibly helpful.

The main takeaways from the guide are:

  • Enroll in as many airline, hotel, car rental and dining programs as possible.
  • Open a mileage/points credit card(s) with a big sign-up bonus.
  • Pay for everything by credit card to earn points.
  • Shop online, but don’t go directly to a retailer website. Click through one of the only mileage malls and automatically get points for every dollar you spend.
  • Strive to attain elite status and get bonuses on points and miles earned.

Once you’re up and running with the loyalty/credit card programs that are best for you, keep tabs on other sites like Milepoint, Flyertalk, and BoardingArea for alerts on mileage offers and bonus opportunities.

Spend Wisely – Tips for Redeeming Miles

Once you’ve got a nice bucket of miles burning a hole in your wallet, be sure not to blow them all in one place.  The majority of frequent flyer experts generally advise that you aim to get at least two cents for every mile. For example, the airlines typically charge 25,000 miles for a roundtrip domestic ticket. At two cents per mile, this ticket would normally cost $500 — a mileage worthy trip. If you are getting less than two cents, it might be best to save the miles for a more expensive international flight.

If you have miles expiring but no time to travel, there are several programs that allow you to redeem your miles/points for merchandise at major retailers. Points.com allows users to redeem points for gift cards at stores like Target, Home Depot and Macy’s — just be mindful of how much you’ll end up paying per mile. A site that offers a reasonable rate on miles is MagsforMiles.com. For example, a 51 week subscription to The Economist is regularly $160, but costs only 1,700 miles through the MagsforMiles program (you get nine cents per mile).

Featured Image: Passport and Boarding Pass (Shutterstock.com)

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Allison is a project manager at Fly.com. She has visited more than 20 countries on five continents and hopes to check Japan, Croatia and Brazil off her list in the next few years. She currently lives in the New York City area.

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